I hope your holiday was peaceful and full of family and friends. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our six children and extended family.
As we all now prep for New Years celebrations it's important to make sure that our homes are ready for guests. Even if you just have a spare hour to clean up, focusing on a few basic areas will get your rooms party ready in no time. Here's how to make sure your guests feel at home - and keep yourself from stressing about the state of your gathering space.
Create Mood Lighting - Poor lighting whether too dark or too light - is an instant mood killer at any get-together. You want guests to feel comfortable, but you also want to keep the area light enough so that everyone can see. Layer different types of lighting and bring in lamps at different heights. Make sure all the light bulbs are working and replace any burned out bulbs.
If you don't have lamps to bring in, dim your overhead lights and light some candles. If will look and feel much more cozy.
Clean and Pick-Up Clutter - More than anything else, you want to make sure your living room is fresh, clean and comfortable. If you have the time, do a big clean-up. Start at least a few days before to avoid stressing out, or having your guests arrive while you're still scrubbing the floor (this has happened to me before - embarrassing). Sweep, vacuum, dust and polish. Check behind cushions and underneath pillows. You don't want a guest to be the one to find that missing Popsicle from last summer.
Seating - Make sure your furniture is organized in a way that's conducive to group conversation. You want your party environment to feel natural, and let the conversation flow smoothly. Make sure that most of the chairs are at the same height so guests can see eye to eye.
Set up multiple conversation areas so that people can have private conversations, but join the group again with ease.
Don't worry about things matching if you don't have enough seating, feel free to bring in other parts of the house. Pillows can correct too-deep sofas, or serve as impromptu floor seating.
Safety First - Keep hot drinks away from where children can reach them, and places where they can be easily spilled. Always keep a first-aid kit handy, and make sure the batteries in your smoke and CO alarms are fresh.
If young children are visiting your home, it's a good idea to talk to their parents beforehand to see what you need to do to prepare for them. Plugging up outlets with safety mechanisms might be necessary. Make sure chemicals, candles or breakables are out of reach. If needed, put safety gates at the top and the bottom of staircases.
Decorate for Comfort - Fresh flowers immediately change the look and feel of a room. Make them extra-special and place a bouquet in a unique container - maybe an antique pitcher or vase you have on hand.
Light scented candles to make the room fresh and festive are also a nice addition.
If you are having a cocktail party, consider making a mini-bar or drink station. It makes things more casual, and allows guests to mix drinks just the way they like them. Pre-dinner snacks are always a good idea too - just be sure to take any allergies and food preferences into account.
If you have a fireplace and plan on using it, make sure it's ready to run all night. Check out your supply of wood and have back up ready somewhere in the house so that you don't have to leave your guests.